Whether you're driving to a campsite or pitching a tent off the beaten path, with a little forethought you can create a simple and delicious weekend camping menu.

By Danielle Susi
August 04, 2020
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Summer is the ideal season for camping and escaping from the blue light of your computer screen into the sunlight of the great outdoors. To actually enjoy your camping trip you'll need to do a little planning ahead of time. Sure, it's about packing warm socks and getting the right sleeping bag, but it's also about preparing your food and ingredients before you hit the road.

This guide will map out a few options for a two-night car-camping trip, with the assumption that you've arrived at your site mid-day on Day One and will leave for home after breakfast on Day Three. The key to creating an effective, but varied camping menu is in the overlap of ingredients and doing any prep-work you can before packing the cooler.

Day One

Lunch: Apple & prosciutto grilled cheese sandwiches.

Just because you're "roughing it" doesn't mean you should be stuck with boring grilled cheese. Prosciutto and thinly sliced apple create a salty sweet combination, while the apple also provides crunch. Pack your favorite bread and griddle this sandwich over indirect heat for a gooey cheese-pull moment by the fire. Consider packing some potato chips or celery sticks to enjoy with your sandwiches.

Dinner: Foil-wrapped sweet potatoes topped with Black Bean Chili.

Cristi

Getting your sweet potatoes tender and fully roasted is ideal for this filling, protein-packed meal. Once they're roasted, you'll want to slice the potatoes down the middle and mash the insides a bit before pouring your warm chili over the top. Top with cheese left over from the grilled cheese sandwiches you had for lunch.

Do ahead:

  • Wrapping your sweet potatoes in aluminum foil before you leave home keeps you from having to bring a whole roll of foil when packing space is precious.
  • Cook your chili ahead of time and store in glass canning jars in your cooler.

Day Two

Breakfast: Bacon & Egg Tacos

While you cook your eggs and bacon, warm up your tortillas over indirect heat. Add a slice of cheese or two (from Day One's grilled cheeses) on the tortillas so it gets nice and melty before adding your eggs and bacon. This meal is packed with the protein, fats, and carbs you'll need to fuel you for the day. And while it's certainly not a necessity, no one will complain if you pack some hot sauce to spice up these tacos.

Lunch: Peach & Tomato Caprese Salad with prosciutto

After a long morning of hiking, nothing hits the spot quite like this refreshing take on the classic caprese salad. Adding the prosciutto from Day One's grilled cheese sandwiches packs the salty, protein-filled punch you need to recover after a day outdoors.

Do ahead:

  • Consider packing fragile peaches and tomatoes in a hard-sided plastic or glass container, or reuse an egg carton for safe transport.
  • Mix your oil and balsamic vinegar and store in a glass canning jar.

This meal is made entirely in an aluminum foil packet, making it an easy camping meal that doesn't require a pan or cooking utensils. Foil packet dinners are a tasty campsite classic and you could easily do all of the preparation at home, wrap in foil packets, and stash in your cooler to cook later.

Do ahead:

  • Chop your onions, potatoes, and trim your green beans.
  • You could even slice your sausages into small pieces to cut down on campsite prep.

Day Three

Breakfast: Eggs, toast, bacon, fruit

Mishal

The ultimate end-of-trip meal using up the leftover ingredients from the days before. Eggs and bacon from Day Two's breakfast are the stars, while bread from Day One's lunch becomes toast and peaches from Day Two's caprese salad are the perfect accompaniment. Try this recipe for Campfire Skillet Breakfast if you have potatoes to use up, too.

Essential Gear for Your Camp Kitchen

While there are plenty of guides and handbooks focusing on what to pack for a camping trip, there are just a few essential pieces of cooking equipment that will make your life a whole lot easier while preparing meals on a picnic table.

  • A good cooler: Of course, a cooler may become cumbersome if you are backpacking, but a solid, insulated cooler that has the capacity to keep ice and food cold for at least three days is worth the investment.
  • Canvas bag: Great for packing all of your dry goods and snacks that don't need to be kept cold.
  • Reusable plates & utensils.
  • Chef's knife or other sharp knife.
  • Cutting board.
  • Fire-started kit or small portable grill: Research your campsite to see what is available to you during your stay.
  • A cast-iron skillet: While most of these meals can be cooked directly over a fire, a skillet is great for cooking bacon and eggs or warming up chili.
  • Long tongs: For moving things on and off the heat of a campfire.
  • Camp soap & sponge: You'll want to be able to clean off your cookware and utensils between messier meals. A small plastic tub with removable lid can double as a washing-up tub and a bin for storing camping tools.

If you are doing a lot of the prep work at home (recommended!), consider also placing items that could get soggy or damaged in plastic bags to avoid any leaks from water that may accumulate in your cooler.

This menu in particular does not include raw red meat, but if your own camping meal plan does then you'll want to be extra careful with your knife and cutting board, making sure to clean it thoroughly after preparing the meat.

As always, all food and trash should be stored in your car or otherwise secured at night or when you are away from your tent to avoid attracting animals to the area.

And of course, don't forget your marshmallows, graham crackers, and chocolate for s'mores!

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